The transition back home

Its been almost 4 weeks since we got home from Plum Village.  There’s a saying in this tradition Go As a River and transitioning back into daily life after being on retreat for 21-days felt very much like this.  When I first came across this saying it rubbed me the wrong way and I misunderstood its teaching.  I took it to mean that we had to go with the collective flow and not question things or stand out from the crowd but I see it differently now.  Go As a River means to be with life in all of its meanderings, embracing joys and difficulties along the way.

The morning after we got home cloudless blue June skies shone brightly on 3 weeks worth of mail piled on the kitchen table, an answering machine wildly blinking non-stop, backpacks filled to the brim with dirty clothes and   Plum Village treasures, cats starving for attention and 200 unanswered emails.  And something was different.  My friend and dharma teacher Rowan asked me just today, “do you know how to tell when the practice is working?”  I answered that yes I thought I did know and then proceeded to ask whether there was a trick.  He said, “you know the practice is working when you have a different response to something then you had before.”    And I did.  Instead of getting stressed out when integrating back home from a big trip, hurriedly unpacking as soon as possible, running around multitasking to an Olympic sport level I said to myself, “this will all get done in time.”  All weekend I didn’t unpack (OK maybe I unpacked a little bit), I didn’t open the mail, I didn’t listen to the answering machine or get carried away cleaning, I wasn’t stressed out thinking that I HAD to do everything RIGHT NOW.  My view of life unfolding was different.  I was at ease and going as a river.  And the experience was so much more enjoyable!

I was hoping that after returning home from the retreat my addiction to sugar would be broken a little bit, my sleeping and eating patterns would be more regulated, and I wouldn’t be as hooked on netflix at night.  Out of the 4 I’m currently at 2 and 2.  One one hand my sugar cravings are greatly reduced and I am eating 3 meals a day, mindful of paying attention to the signs of needing to eat.  On the other hand my sleep schedule is off balance once again and I am not getting enough rest and I am gradually reuniting with netflix at night to help distract me from my physical pains and exhaustion.  Life is about balance.  Getting entirely rid of sugar or netflix is not the answer – cultivating a balance is where we as a collective find a path of joy and ease.  And it will not happen overnight.  The balance comes from teeter tottering back and forth between the left and right side of the middle path.

One thought on “The transition back home

  1. Nicole, I love this final installment of the journey you brought us along for in these 3 weeks.

    Many times I have asked myself the same question that Rowan put to you, but out of desperation that the practice wasn’t working for me. 8 difficult, wonderful year of practice and struggle and growth later, I’ve come up with much the same answer. Meditation and mindful living hasn’t brought me enlightenment or the mysteries of the universe, or even made me a better person as I once hoped. But it has allowed me to respond differently in the moment as well. To realize that transformation IS possible. To be more gentle with myself for not measuring up to some imaginary standard. And in turn to be more gentle with the people I love and aspire to love. And to allow other things, people, and places, like Plum Village, to be just as they are. Imperfect but committed to evolving. To come to rest easily in that great paradox is the goal of my practice. I think it’s yours as well. To face Life and the World as a naked warrior with no shields or weapons except for our raw, tender hearts capable of infinite Love. That is the Practice. Nothing more, but also nothing less. That is what Thay and Buddha and Jesus and Gandhi and Chan Kong and Mother Teresa and Einstein and so many others have shown us is truly possible.

    Balance, going as a river, accepting the faults of others because we’ve come to accept our own, awakening to Life in all its splendor. These precious jewels WILL come with time. I have faith that the journey is the destination. And I’m so happy to share it with you, my friend.

    Thank you again for your bravery in sharing your heart and mind so freely in your writing. Breathe deeply, and know that you are beautifully alive!

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